While Guy Clark recorded more than a dozen studio albums, he is best known as the Texas troubadour, who has written some of the best songs in country music and is beloved by the artist who sang his work. Today, Guy Clark songs continue to influence a younger generation of tunesmiths and are essential to the genre.
So, with that said, let’s travel down memory lane and relish some of the greatest hits of Guy Clark.
1. The Last Gunfighter Ballad
“The Last Gunfighter Ballad” is a story of a gunfighter who can’t forget the smell of the black powder smoke now that he’s an older man was written by Clark himself – and it truly brilliantly tells the cruel passage of time. Clark recorded the song in 1976, enlisting the era’s leading outlaw for harmony vocals: Waylon Jennings.
A year later, another legend recorded the song! Johnny Cash released it as a single and the title track to his album of the same name.
A year before Clark released the song, “Heartbroke” was first recorded by Rodney Crowell off his 1980 album, But What Will the Neighbors Think – but it was Ricky Skaggs’ version that rocked the country chart, reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
What makes things even more interesting is that it was recorded by George Strait that same year, not knowing it had been recorded by Skaggs about two weeks earlier.
3. My Favorite Picture of You
Clark wrote this romantic ballad after the death of his beloved wife, songwriter Susanna Clark. In the song, Clark expressed his profound grief in one of the most dramatic yet heartening ways – and that’s by clinging onto an old photo that symbolized the persistence of their love, despite all the obstacles they went through.
An old Polaroid photo of Susanna actually inspired the song.
4. The Randall Knife
Here’s another personal song by Clark, which he wrote after the passing of his father. This intense, tear-stained narrative revolves around a family heirloom that a father used to fight World War II and passed to his son during a Boy Scout jamboree. But the song is more than just a tradition, it shows how an apparently simple item can instill principles and vivid memories.
5. L.A. Freeway
Clark, who was once a struggling Texas songwriter, moved to Los Angeles during the 1970s in the hopes of having a successful music career. However, Clark was surprised to find himself in the highway for long hours amid the concrete jungle surrounded by smog.
While Clark had left Texas far behind, his hometown never quite left him. He would sometimes even feel homesick that quitting came to his mind quite many times. It was his love for the music industry that kept him sticking around.
6. Desperados Waiting For A Train
Since Jerry Jeff Walker recorded the song in 1973, several more artists followed – this includes David Allan Coe, The Highwaymen, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, and so much more. The classic country song tells the story of a young boy who looked up to an old man who showed him the ropes.
According to Clark, the song was not something he had made up – it was inspired by a guy who was like his grandfather. “And when I started writing songs, that was one of the songs I knew I was gonna write at some point,” he said.
7. She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Clark writes about leaving the world behind from a female hitchhiker’s perspective whose only goal is to survive. While the restless woman was taken to far less important places, she mustered up the courage to leave her troubled life behind. Indeed, Clark brilliantly summed up the drive and willpower briefly as he compared her to prisoners who “have a way with a file.”
Clark shed an empathetic and compassionate light on the human stories behind the countless homeless all over the United States. This includes Betty, who’s been on the streets for so many years that she’s way past complaining.
9. Cold Dog Soup
While many would romanticize the life of a poet, Clark knew first-hand that living it was another story. The profession may give you the opportunity to rub shoulders with all the brilliant and legendary people in the world – still, you might not be able to pay your monthly rent on time. He sings more about that in the playful and catchy “Cold Dog Soup.”
10. The Dark
The title track of Clark’s 2002 album beautifully captured the perfection of how striking the lights are whenever it breaks the darkness and, of course, the sound of the still of the night. Clark will then bring you to a rational reflection on human existence that will definitely make you ponder.
Some More Guy Clark Songs From The Texas Troubadour
Indeed, the songs of Guy Clark turned into vibrantly timeless country ballads. Check out more of his tunes below.
How about you? What are your favorite Guy Clark songs?